“No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone.”

Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi #48

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

“We should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse.”
Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi #48

St Bernard saw that we can progress in our spiritual journey of living a loving life of love. But we all know that at times we also regress in that journey too. He outlined four stages of love.

The first degree involves loving ourselves for our own sake – to look out for number 1. But we know that ultimately we cannot preserve ourselves for we are dependent not only on God, but each other, for how we live. And so we learn to love not for selfish reasons but for the blessings we will get from God, by realising that we are dependent upon God who empowers with grace and patience and other gifts such that we are able to truly love our neighbour. This leads us to the third stage where we can love God for God’s own sake. We do this by loving as Jesus loved and holding Christ up as our model on how to love. Finally, the fourth degree of love is where we can love ourselves for God’s sake.

If our vocation in life is to become more Christ-like, ought not our lives be so lovely so as to attract attention and invite comment from other people? And if that does not happen, might we ask ourselves if we are loving at all? Iris Murdoch has this expression of being ‘unselfed’, or drawn-out of oneself, when we behold something or someone so beautiful, that our very being is arrested in its presence. If we profess to live loving lives, we must ask ourselves whether others are ‘unselfed’ in their encounter with us? Are they arrested at the sheer loveliness of our lives, as it progresses upwards through the stages of love to image ever more God’s love for them? Or do they see us as just another example of someone out for themselves – looking after number 1.

Lord God,

Help me to love as you love, To draw me out of myself, And to love others as selflessly as you have loved me. Help me to inspire love of you, Through my love of others, And myself.


Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and underwent the usual course of studies in his formation, which took him to such varied places as Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Whilst working at the Institute, Matthew managed the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and was involved in the Spirituality work, completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and the Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and was also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa. He is currently the Director of Communications for the Jesuits in Southern Africa, based in Lusaka, Zambia.

m.charlesworth@jesuitinstitute.org.za @mcharlesworth
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